Studies reveal cocoa flavanols are good for heart health
10 September 2015 • Author(s): Victoria White
Mars and researchers from the University of Dusseldorf and University of Reading have unveiled two new studies revealing that cocoa flavanols can help to keep our hearts healthy.
Cocoa flavanols are nutrients found naturally in the cocoa bean.
The research shows that consuming cocoa flavanols can decrease arterial stiffness and increase blood vessel function in healthy people, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease — the number one cause of deaths worldwide.
Mars and the universities conducted the research as part of the FLAVIOLA consortium – a pan-European research project that looks into the benefits of flavanols.
Studies show cocoa flavanols have a range of health benefits
“With the world population getting older, the incidence of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and stroke will only increase,” says Professor Malte Kelm, Professor of Cardiology, Pulmonary Diseases and Vascular Medicine at University Hospital Düsseldorf and Scientific Director of FLAVIOLA. “It is therefore pivotal that we understand the positive impact diet can have on cardiovascular disease risk. As part of this, we want to know what role flavanol-containing foods could play in maintaining the health of the heart and blood vessels.”
Flavanols are a distinct group of naturally occurring compounds that can be found in a variety of foods such as tea, red wine, blueberries and raw cocoa. Cocoa is an especially rich source of flavanols, and the specific mixture of flavanols that is found in cocoa is unique. Many studies show cocoa flavanols have a range of health benefits, including improved blood flow and cardiovascular health.
In the first study announced by Mars today and published in Age, researchers investigated the effects of cocoa flavanol intake on cardiovascular function in healthy young and elderly individuals without history, signs, or symptoms of cardiovascular disease. In a trial, young and elderly healthy subjects consumed either a cocoa flavanol-containing drink or nutrient-matched, cocoa flavanol-free control drink bi-daily for 14 days. The researchers concluded that cocoa flavanol intake reverses age-related burden of cardiovascular risk in healthy elderly, highlighting the potential of dietary flavanols to maintain cardiovascular health.
In the second study, published in British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), researchers investigated the effects of cocoa flavanol on surrogate markers of cardiovascular health in low risk, healthy, middle-aged individuals without history, signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease. The researchers found that, in healthy individuals, regular cocoa flavanol intake improved accredited cardiovascular surrogates of cardiovascular risk, demonstrating that dietary flavanols have the potential to maintain cardiovascular health even in low-risk subjects.
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